Students in their Prime

In-house teams should get in on some Prime action – it could be the most enjoyable part of their year

Tim Bratton
Tim Bratton

A quick post, just to raise awareness about the Prime initiative within the in-house legal community.

I found out about Prime when I read this report in The Lawyer. Essentially it is City law firms joining together to offer students from less advantaged backgrounds work placements. Broadly, the firms commit to giving placements to a number of students equal to half the number of training contracts they offer in a year. So a firm that offers 40 training contracts will offer at least 20 student placements through the Prime scheme.

The aim being to encourage people to think about law as a career who might not naturally be encouraged towards it or have the opportunity to regard it as for them.

When we found out about it, our team wanted to get involved so we teamed up with Herbert Smith and offered to take their students for half a day during the week’s placement.

They came along on Thursday afternoon. What a great bunch; quietly confident at the start, nicely boisterous at the end. Bright, enthusiastic, keen to chat, wanting to ask questions, open-minded, competitive, driven, clearly planning bright futures and enjoying their placement. And, importantly for the future, unlike the senior end of our profession, diverse in background.

We ran a few sessions for the students about what is an in-house lawyer, what is copyright, what is a trademark and so on. But by far the biggest hit was when we took them to the FT’s main editorial conference room and a real-life journalist talked to them. I think most of the students left the FT wanting to be journalists rather than lawyers.

One highlight of the afternoon came during the copyright session we ran. One of our team talked about the Richard O’Dwyer extradition. There followed a lively debate among the students about the rights and wrongs of illegal downloading and whether extradition for possible infringement was a disproportionate outcome. It was fascinating to hear the views of this generation – clearly brought up on a diet of free online content and now wrestling with their would-be lawyer consciences.

We finished with a quiz based on everything we’d covered during the afternoon. It was meant to be a bit of fun but grew increasingly competitive as it went to a nail-biting tie-break.

And an indirect benefit I hadn’t seen coming was the team-building benefit for us as an in-house team. Inevitably we left the planning to the last minute so pulled everything together in a couple of days and, if I say so myself, executed it near perfectly. Warm glowy feeling all round.

So why am I writing about this? No, not to tell you what a wonderful CSR-friendly, leading the pro bono charge team we are. Doing something like this was long overdue for us if I’m honest. No, I’m writing this simply to encourage other in-house teams to get involved. Very little effort, lots of reward for everyone. Find a law firm that participates – most of the biggies do – and offer to host part of the placement scheme.

Go on, do it, it might just be one of the most enjoyable days of your year.

Tim Bratton is general counsel at the Financial Times